The Comparison

Original Text: 
Donne, John. The Elegies and the Songs and Sonnets of John Donne. Edited by Helen Gardner. London: Oxford University Press, 1965: 5-6.
1As the sweet sweat of roses in a still,
2As that which from chaf'd musk cat's pores doth trill,
3As the almighty balm of th' early east,
4Such are the sweat drops of my mistress' breast;
5And on her neck her skin such lustre sets,
6They seem no sweat drops, but pearl carcanets.
7Rank sweaty froth thy mistress' brow defiles,
8Like spermatic issue of ripe menstruous boils,
9Or like the scum, which, by need's lawless law
10Enforced, Sanserra's starved men did draw
11From parboil'd shoes and boots, and all the rest
12Which were with any sovereign fatness blessed;
13And like vile lying stones in saffron'd tin,
14Or warts, or wheals, it hangs upon her skin.
15Round as the world's her head, on every side,
16Like to the fatal ball which fell on Ide;
17Or that whereof God had such jealousy,
18As for the ravishing thereof we die.
19Thy head is like a rough-hewn statue of jet,
20Where marks for eyes, nose, mouth, are yet scarce set ;
21Like the first chaos, or flat seeming face
22Of Cynthia, when th' earth's shadows her embrace.
23Like Proserpine's white beauty-keeping chest,
24Or Jove's best fortune's urn, is her fair breast.
25Thine's like worm-eaten trunks, clothed in seal's skin,
26Or grave, that's dust without, and stink within.
27And like that slender stalk, at whose end stands
28The woodbine quivering, are her arms and hands.
29Like rough-bark'd elm-boughs, or the russet skin
30Of men late scourged for madness, or for sin,
31Like sun-parch'd quarters on the city gate,
32Such is thy tann'd skin's lamentable state;
33And like a bunch of ragged carrots stand
34The short swollen fingers of thy gouty hand.
35Then like the chemic's masculine equal fire,
36Which in the limbeck's warm womb doth inspire
37Into th' earth's worthless dirt a soul of gold,
38Such cherishing heat her best loved part doth hold.
39Thine's like the dread mouth of a fired gun,
40Or like hot liquid metals newly run
41Into clay moulds, or like to that Etna,
42Where round about the grass is burnt away.
43Are not your kisses then as filthy, and more,
44As a worm sucking an envenom'd sore?
45Doth not thy fearful hand in feeling quake,
46As one which gathering flowers still fears a snake?
47Is not your last act harsh and violent,
48As when a plough a stony ground doth rent?
49So kiss good turtles, so devoutly nice
50Are priests in handling reverent sacrifice,
51And such in searching wounds the surgeon is,
52As we, when we embrace, or touch, or kiss.
53Leave her, and I will leave comparing thus,
54She and comparisons are odious.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh
RPO Edition: